Judge blocks Illinois redistricting plan from ballot

CHICAGO (AP) — A voter referendum aimed at changing the way Illinois draws its political boundaries is unconstitutional for the November ballot, a judge determined Wednesday.

The ruling by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen marked the second time that an attempt to change how Illinois redistricts has been blocked in the courts. An attorney who has represented the state’s Democrats, including House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, filed a lawsuit claiming it wasn’t constitutional.

The plan by a group called the Independent Map Amendment proposed an 11-member commission to take over how legislative boundaries are drawn in the state, instead of leaving it to the party in power. Commission members would be chosen through a complex process involving the state’s auditor general and potentially members of the Illinois Supreme Court. Backers of the measure, who collected nearly 560,000 signatures across the state, said they learned from a failed 2014 effort to overhaul redistricting.

An attorney who has represented the state’s top Democrats filed a lawsuit claiming the measure didn’t meet the narrow scope that changes to the state Legislature be both “structural and procedural.” He filed the lawsuit on behalf of minority business and community groups who call themselves the People’s Map and say the current mapping process protects minority representation. Those arguments were never mentioned in court.

Independent Maps’ lawyers countered by saying since legislative districts are the “building blocks of the General Assembly,” redistricting is by its nature structural and procedural.

The Illinois State Board of Elections had said it appears that the group already has enough valid signatures for the ballot.

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